DJ Mustard is running hip-hop.
It might not look like it on Billboard's hip-hop charts, although that's a deceptive measure these days; rap artists who don't make any noise on hip-hop radio—like Macklemore—get thrown into the mix. But step into any club in 2014, and you're liable to hear back-to-back-to-back Mustard jams. What Lex Luger was for 2010-2011, and Mike Will was to 2012-2013, Mustard has become for 2014, the default sound of popular hip-hop, reclaiming the title from Atlanta for the West Coast for the first time in many years.
One of the most important innovations of Mustard's beat style was his creation of a new, interchangeable groove. It sounds counter-intuitive; why is creating one pattern and using it over and over an "innovation"? The answer: The static rhythmic bed draws your attention to the variation that flourishes around it. The DJ can shift from song to song without ever losing dance floor momentum. It was an innovation directed at the clubs—creating a baseline to play with. And Mustard's success forced producers to contend with that framework, either by emulating it, or by intentionally going against the grain. Either way, it's Mustard's world; we're just living in it.
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